Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996
 The Status of the Information Society, by Michel Bauwens

On Indigenous Cyberspace Movements

Cyberspace is not only a medium, it is foremost a collective mental environment--a "Country of the Mind"--and hence, also a living environment generating new social dynamics and specific social movements. Cyberspace is a laboratory for the social and political practices of the future.

Every medium profoundly influences our communicative mores, and therefore human culture. Thus, as outlined by McLuhan, television has had profound effects on our way of doing things, in areas like business and politics. But, even if TV has changed the way that social and political movements operate and their relative influence in society, it has not created TV-specific "native" movements (with the possible exception of tele-evangelism). The situation is totally different with cyberspace media, which from the word go has created a wide variety of movements that are indigenous or native to cyberspace. Why such a radical departure, as compared with other media?

Part of the reason is the Internet's characteristic as a meta-medium, combining both mass media and personal media in one environment, which creates a totally new form of many to many communication--while TV was simply another bum, although with pictures. But more fundamentally, a cyberspace environment functions as a new collective mental space for the cultural life of mankind. Its brains connected the first-ever mass global forum. Cyberspace is not just something we watch, it is a place where we're mentally present, and our bodies have no choice of being there too, though in a passive mode. In this new communal space, it is imperative for each participant to define his point of view and positions.

This explains why cyberspace is the locus of political and social struggles, fought out by Netizens, i.e. the informational equivalent of the bourgeois citizen of the Industrial Age. These Netizens are creating a wide variety of native (that is, to the Internet!) movements, for example the ^cyber-feminist and ^cyber-Marxist movements. Both movements share, together with the many other ^native movements, that the Internet represents a radical departure and a new civilizational shift. --

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